We are ready to confront any water crisis: El-Sisi

State-run daily Al-Ahram quoted Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi as describing the plant, being built near Ain Sokhna on the Red Sea, as the ‘largest project in history’ of water distillation and sewage treatment. (Reuters)
Updated 09 January 2018

We are ready to confront any water crisis: El-Sisi

CAIRO: President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said he would not allow a water crisis to happen in Egypt, stressing that the authorities are fully prepared to confront any such problem the country may face.
El-Sisi added that he did not want to talk more about the Egyptian preparations. The Egyptian president was most likely referring to a possible shortage of Egypt’s share of water from the Nile if Ethiopia starts storing water behind its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam without reaching an agreement with Egypt on the rules of the operation of both the dam and water.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said during a news conference with his Irish counterpart in Cairo that his country has not received a reply from Ethiopia or Sudan so far to Egypt’s request to involve the World Bank as a neutral party in the stalled negotiations between the three countries on the dam crisis.
Shoukri presented this proposal to the Ethiopian authorities during his visit to Addis Ababa in December last year. “Egypt’s goal is not just to maintain its share of water in the context of the stalled negotiations with Ethiopia and Sudan, but to develop ways to exploit this share and to maximize efficiency in exploiting Egypt’s water shares as well,” El-Sisi said as he inaugurated some construction projects on Monday.
El-Sisi announced that three months ago Egypt started the implementation of the largest cost-effective water treatment and desalination project in its history.
He said the cost of this program exceeds 70 billion Egyptian pounds ($3.96 billion). “Water for agriculture and drinking must be secured for all Egyptians.”
He added that the implementation of these mega projects for water treatment “is not for luxury,” rejecting claims that these projects have no direct benefit for citizens. He stressed that “preventing the occurrence of a water crisis comes first in the interest of the citizen.”
The Egyptian president pointed out that desalination plants being established depend on the triple water treatment technology, and that water treated under such technology has no risk on the citizens’ lives.
On the other hand, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said Sudan’s decision to withdraw its ambassador for consultation is fully evaluated by Cairo as taking action against this development.
Shukri stressed that Egypt values its relations with Sudan, but that the direction of relations needs to be corrected so that there will be no negative effects on the peoples of the two nations.

Yemen’s divisions were never fully healed

Yemen has entered its third year of war between the Iran-backed Houthi militia and the national army, supported by the Saudi-led Arab coalition. (AFP)
Updated 32 min 20 sec ago

Yemen’s divisions were never fully healed

  • 28 years after the north and south merged, the challenges of bringing the country under one govt remain as great
  • It’s unity on paper only, but not in the hearts and minds of people, says Fatima Abo Al-Asrar, a senior analyst at the Arabia Foundation in Washington.

DUBAI: When Yemen’s national army marked the anniversary of north and south becoming one country, it was a reminder of the growing danger of the country once again fragmenting.

On May 22, 1990, the Republic of Yemen was formed when the two existing countries agreed on a unity constitution.

On Tuesday, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who leads the internationally recognized government, which is fighting Houthi militias, said the unification of north and south Yemen remained the most popular situation and one that “reflected the civilization of an ancient people.”

As it stands, the Houthis control the capital Sanaa and the north, while the government, backed by the Saudi-led Arab coalition, controls the south and much of the rest of the country. Twenty-eight years after the north and south merged, the challenges of bringing the country under the control of a single government remain as great.

“When it happened in 1990, Yemen’s unification was nearly universally viewed as a historical achievement,” Adam Baron, co-founder of the Sanaa Center For Strategic Studies, told Arab News. He said current tensions are a result of how the unification was carried out.

“Until they’re dealt with — and until serious dialogue occurs — these fissures are only likely to deepen,” Baron said.

Yemen’s divides were exacerbated by colonialism. Britain had been present in the south from 1874 in agreement with the Ottomans, while the north was part of the Ottoman Empire. After the collapse of the empire in 1918, the north became an independent state and the south became a British colony in 1937.

Following civil wars in the north and the south and weak economies, the governments of the two states agreed to renew discussions about unification.

In 1990, Ali Abdullah Saleh of North Yemen and leader of the south Ali Salim Al-Beidh agreed on a unity constitution.

However, conflicts within the coalition resulted in the self-imposed exile of Al-Beidh, who had become vice president of the transitional government, to Aden in 1993. After clashes intensified, civil war broke out in May 1994.

In the aftermath of the war, in October 1994 Saleh was elected by Parliament to a five-year term. He remained in power until he was overthrown by the 2011 uprising that forced his resignation in 2012.

Six years later and Yemen has entered its third year of war between the Iran-backed Houthi militia against the national army and the Popular Resistance supported by the Saudi-led Arab Coalition.

Yemeni political analyst Baraa Shiban said that after 2011 the people aspiring for change and building a new country strongly believed in the outcomes of the National Dialogue, a 10-month consultation process that would form the basis of a new constitution. Many believed a new federal system of government would be the best outcome. 

“The Yemeni people didn’t have the chance to vote for this new vision due to the coup led by the Houthis,” Shiban said.

“The regime that ruled after 1990 failed in meeting the dreams and hopes of the Yemeni people, who struggled for many years to reach unification.”

He added that Hadi’s administration needs to find a new form of governance that meets the demands of the people.

Amid the conflict between the Houthis and the internationally recognized government, other battles have erupted with Al-Qaeda and Daesh insurgents, as well as the Southern Transitional Council, who are calling for the south to secede.

Tensions escalated earlier this year when army forces clashed with southern separatist fighters.

Fatima Abo Al-Asrar, senior analyst at the Arabia Foundation think tank in Washington, said there is no indication that the government of Yemen is working to improve relations or solve the southern crisis.

“So far, the government of Yemen has directly clashed with southern leadership that called for secession,” she said. “The government fails to understand the pulse of the street and fails to realize that it is the only culprit standing in the face of prosperity.”

Yemen’s Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher accused southern separatists of attempting a coup in the interim capital of Aden after they took over the government headquarters in January.

At least 15 people were killed, among them three civilians, medical sources in four hospitals in Aden said.

The clashes led Saudi Arabia and the UAE to send envoys in a bid to end the standoff.

The Saudi and Emirati envoys “met with all concerned parties, stressing the need to abide by the cease-fire ... and refocus efforts on the front lines against the Houthis,” the UAE’s official WAM news agency reported.

However, Al-Asrar says that the country is already divided. “There is no one unified Yemen anymore. Northerners find it difficult to step foot in the south. It’s unity on paper only, but not in the hearts and minds of people.”